Saturday, March 20, 2010

American Idol Top 12

On Tuesday evening, the Top 12 took to the larger soundstage for the first time this season, to sing the music of the Rolling Stones in what was not exactly a "rockin' evening." To be fair, almost all of the performances managed to avoid the "trainwreck" category (save the results night peformance of Ke$ha). While the show was entertaining, it still felt like there is some sort of spark missing from this season. By Wednesday, the Bottom Three and the first eliminated Finalist did not come as any great surprise. As part of the introductory video pieces, we learned that many of these kids have dealt with family tragedies and whatnot and have parents with weird names such as Kelly Kelly.

Michael Lynche- "Miss You"

Once again, I note how an African-American singer is the first Finalist to take the stage of the season. Last year, it was Lil Rounds and the year before it was... darn, what was her name.. oh yeah, Syesha. Even in the Semi-finals, it seems like the first singer every season is always black. Is there some sort of tv strategy behind that?

Anyways, I thought Michael sounded good for the first part vocally, though maybe it did not have quite the emotional impact of his previous two weeks. It is is tough kicking off a long show and this portion of the season, and he received some criticism for his corny dancing. While that was probably at least partly true, it is good to have at least one singer who moves around a bit. After all, the kids this week were doing Mick Jagger, who is known for prancing about the stage. Big Mike is literally about the size of two Mick Jaggers. Grade B

Didi Benami- "Play With Fire"

There may have been a brief moment where Didi botched a lyric or missed an entrance, but I found it a very strong performance actually. I was surprised she had the vocal capacity to hit the big notes that she did, and as Kara DioGuardi commented, Didi did bring an intensity to the song, which was a good thing for her. Didi claimed that hanging out with Siobhan Magnus has helped her get "darker." That figures.

She also said that living in L.A. for several years and trying to make in the music industry has helped her gain the necessary amount of jadeness. Someone should have told Didi that if she would have stayed at home in Tennessee, she would have stood a much better chance at potentially winning American Idol Grade B+

Casey James- "It's All Over Now"

Casey grew up in Cool, Texas, and is part of the one quarter of Season Nine Finalists who come from the Lone Star State. When Casey was young, his mother looked very much like Lilly Tomlin in the early '80s flick "9 to 5."

The guitar playing was good and I still think that Casey has a really good voice, but I thought the performance was just ok. It is almost as if he is more focused on just jamming musically and it has been said that he often fails to finish his phrases when singing. While Casey should be around a while, he will have to work on coming across as more of a potential star and less than just a run of the mill bar performer. Grade B-

Lacey Brown- "Ruby Tuesday"

After Casey, came another Texan with a rhyming name. Last week, I mentioned on here, that Lacey could be the first one to be on the chopping block. Before the performance, I took note that rubies are red, and that an upcoming Tuesday this November is likely to be pretty Red, so this was maybe a good song choice for her.

The arrangement was maybe a little low energy and vocally, Lacey was once again, just alright. She does have an interesting quality to her voice though that sounds a bit like Dolly Parton. Maybe she should forget about the red hair and go blonde. It was a performance that I felt was likely to keep Lacey lost in the shuffle. Grade B-

Andrew Garcia- "Gimme Shelter"

Andrew continues to resemble North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il , his father still likes to cry, and his mother sort of scares me, as she just sits there silently glaring. Has she ever put a cap in someone?

Ellen DeGeneres thought this was Andrew's best performance, but I felt it lacking, despite hitting a couple big notes towards the end. On the chorus of this song, Andrew could have used a bit of the intensity that Didi brought to her number. I seem to remember the Clark Brothers doing this song on that Fox "Great American Band" show a few years back and felt that was really powerful. Andrew just does not seem comfortable without his guitar and with a band backing him up. I think he is a good example of how some popular singers from YouTube may just not translate when they perform before an actual audience. Grade C

Katie Stevens- "Wild Horses"

First of all, how could Kristy Lee Cook who two years ago sold her horse to go on American Idol never have done this song? What a wasted opportunity. Second, why did Seacrest try to embarrass Katie on a Rolling Stones pop quiz? At least she knew the answer. Since the judges are always trying to make Katie younger against her will, she was happy to have no choice but to sing a song from the geriatric Rolling Stones. Still though, she may actually be the right age for Ron Woods to want to date. This song had most recently been covered by Simon Cowell protege Susan Boyle, and like SuBo, Katie has been given a bit of a makeover, that has her looking a bit like Katherine McPhee's younger sister. She also proclaimed a desire to "put Connecticut on the map." What does Joe Lieberman think of that?

The first verse was ok, and then by the chorus, it got sort of pitchy and it seemed like Katie ran out of steam. There just was not the needed impact on the performance for her. In a few years, maybe Katie can be somewhat on par vocally with Kat McPhee, but not yet . Grade C+

Tim Urban- "Under My Thumb"

Tim comes from a very large, and I am thinking probably very religious family. The Urbans are maybe a bit like the Duggars, but I am not sure what Jim Bob and Michelle would have thought about one of their brood taking on a song which is a bit anti-woman (though maybe it fits in with a traditional patriarchal society.)

After having improved a good deal last week, I thought Tim was pretty horrible this week. I could not wait for the performance to be over. It definitely was an interesting choice to do this Rolling Stones song in a reggae fashion, and I think he was probably just trying to make sure he secured the votes of the Vote for the Worst people. He certainly deserved it. If the theme for next week is Teen Idols, Tim will probably be safe again. Grade D

Siobhan Magnus- "Paint It Black"

Siobhan got mad love to the judges and as I was little surprised when they compared her to Adam Lambert, but this is probably my favorite Rolling Stones song, and while I thought it was good, I sort of expected more.

It started off as sort of a goth meets musical theater version of the song, but something seemed off for Siobhan vocally. As the performance kicked in though, I thought it got a good deal better though and of course one has to be impressed by her capacity to scream. It will be interesting to see if she tries to hit a "glory note" like that every week, and what the comments will be if she decides to pass. Expect Siobhan to become even more polarizing as the season continues.
Grade B

Lee Dewyze- "Beast of Burden"

Seacrest referred to Lee as the "Pride of Chicago" and while I am not sure about that, I have now read that like myself, the singer might have actually grown up in the suburb of Arlington Heights, IL. You can definitely tell he and his parents are from Chicago by their accents. I could have really done without the paint discussion though. Couldn't Seacrest have at least tried to incorporate the dumb talk in with Siobhan's song choice?

Lee was nervous again, but I thought his performance was credible, on what as a pretty safe song selection. It was just a little too much Dave Matthews Band for my taste though. Could never stand that sort of thing. I want Lee to pronounce words better when he sings and as the cliche goes, gain more confidence. Grade B-

Paige Miles- "Honky Tonk Woman"

We have come a long way in America, when a black woman can sing about a honky on national television. I think that is a good thing. Paige is alleged to have laryngitis, which was certain to ratchet up the sympathy vote for her, as AI probably wants to keep her around a bit more.

Illness or not, I thought this was probably Paige's best performance, and certainly a great deal better than last week. She seems to be a naturally gifted performer on upbeat songs like this, but there is just still something about her vocals that I still do not get. It always sounds like she is straining to get the words out. Grade B-

Aaron Kelly- "Angie"

Of all the singers this week, Aaron and Didi are perhaps the only ones to exceed my expectations. Not so sure about the makeover though. If possible, he looks even more like a member of a 1990s Boy Band.

Vocally, I thought it was quite capable, and that Aaron showed good musical instincts by both not changing the song too much and not trying to do more with it than he was capable of. I still do not think he has a prayer of winning American Idol, but with a little bit more consistency, and some greater exposure from this show, I can see him having a future in the country music industry. Grade B

Crystal Bowersox-"You Can't Always Get What You Want"

If anyone has actually been reading these comments on American Idol this season, it is little surprise to find that I thought Crystal had a strong performance. As one of the judges said, she does almost make it look effortless. Her father also looks like a hippie and he also cried in the video piece. Off screen, I read this week that she got knocked up by some guy named Tony and is now involved with another guy named Tony. Keep her away from New Jersey!

Now, will that quality be good for her in the competition, or will America want to see some more grit and determination? It is hard for me to find anything to really criticize her for this week, and I liked how she tried to stretch herself a bit more vocally, but the judges seemed intent on saying it was not their favorite performance of hers and Simon pointed out that he thought Siobhan had surpassed her for the evening. Crystal ought to be happy that Simon said that. The "pimping" that she had been getting from him was definitely going to work to her disadvantage? What kind of Teen Idol song will she do next week? Will she put the guitar down for the first time? Is she going to keep talking about "having a lot on my mind?" Grade A-

To rank them from best to worst:

1. Crystal Bowersox
2. Did Benami
3. Siobhan Magnus
4. Michael Lynche
5. Aaron Kelly
6. Lacey Brown
7 .Lee Dewyze
8. Casey James
9. Paige Miles
10. Katie Stevens
11. Andrew Garcia
12. Tim Urban

Who should have been eliminated: Tim Urban
Who I predicted would be eliminated: Lacey Brown (stuck with my prediction from before the show)
Who was eliminated: Lacey Brown

On Wednesday night we learned that the Idol Mansion was supposedly gone, but to my disappointment, the "Judge's Save" was back for year two. Sure, it makes for good (though manufactured) drama every week, and I can almost guarantee that it will be used this season again, but I would prefer it not be there.

If someone is voted off (and I had Lacey in the middle of the pack for example this week), they should go. If America makes a mistake, such as electing Barack Obama President, it should be prepared to live with the consequences.

One difference though this year, which is probably a good one, is that the lowest vote getter will not have to sing the song that America found crappy enough to not vote for them, but instead can pick to do something else, ostensibly something they had already done the season of their choosing.

Lacey chose to re-visit "The Story" and I cannot seem to find this performance from Wednesday on YouTube, but I remember it being sorta pitchy and while Lacey was giving a valiant effort, it certainly was not the type of performance or song to get the judges enthused to save her and they had a fake confab during the song before telling her it was the end of the road. It was certainly a difficult position for any singer to be in. Grade C

Whatever votes Lacey had this week are probably most likely to go to someone like Didi or maybe to the other Texans Casey and Tim. It will be a bitter cut next week for the person who goes out at Number 11, as they will miss out on the Idol summer tour and the large paycheck that comes with it.